The Supreme Court’s 2019-20 Annual Report was tabled in Parliament on 18 March 2021
Among the many events, changes and achievements across the reporting period:
- The Supreme Court held 2,575 virtual hearings in addition to hundreds of other online court meetings. Of those virtual hearings, 65% were held via Zoom and 25% via Webex, with the remainder using teleconference and Skype technology.
- The Court of Appeal marked its 25th anniversary.
- The Criminal Division introduced entirely remote hearings via Webex and more accused had their cases finalised by way of trial than in the previous two financial years, despite the suspension of jury trials from March 2020.
- The overall workload in the Commercial Court remained consistent across the reporting period, despite the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic.
- The Common Law Division created a new Institutional Liability List and moved swiftly to virtual hearings in response to COVID-19, with judge-only trials instead of jury trials.
- The Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) Centre commenced virtual mediations via Zoom, while settling matters at mediation saved 1,209 trial days.
- An average of almost 22,000 applications for grants of representation were managed, making the Probate Office the highest-volume area of the Court by number of applications.
- Before its suspension due to COVID-19, around 4,000 students from 175 schools (including 42 regional schools) accessed the on-site Court Education Program at the Supreme Court.
- The Funds in Court office provided active support to 6,144 beneficiaries.
- Demand for digital Law Library of Victoria services increased by 60%, with the number of judges and members of the legal profession registered for seamless remote access to licensed content through the library website growing from 3,600 to 5,750.
- The Court’s Gertie’s Law podcast was recognised at the New York Festivals Radio Awards, winning the Education Podcast category from a shortlist of international entrants. As at 30 June 2020, the full 14 episodes had been downloaded 233,717 times across 137 countries.
Chief Justice Anne Ferguson and Chief Executive Officer Matt Hall PSM thanked everyone who worked so quickly and with such goodwill during 2019-20.
“Hundreds of hearings went online, and by June 2020 most of our judicial officers and staff were operating off-site. This was a significant logistical operation in itself, and its success speaks volumes about everyone’s adaptability, patience and perseverance,” the Chief Justice and CEO wrote in their joint Foreword.
“We would never have wished for change in the way it arrived in 2019-20. But in responding through necessity we have accelerated longer-term projects to continue to modernise the Court and honed our focus on the needs of our Court users.”
“From here, we will continue to draw from the lessons learned in order to serve the community by upholding the law through just, independent and impartial decision making and dispute resolution.”